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Canterbury families invited to be part of UC research team

Canterbury families invited to be part of UC research team

The University of Canterbury-based New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain & Behaviour (NZILBB) is taking a novel approach to recruiting research participants.

The institute has launched Team Tamariki, a new initiative aiming to amass a large database of families from the Canterbury region willing to be contacted when their child is the right age to participate in research projects at the University.

Research projects calling on Team Tamariki members will be on some aspect of child development or learning, with a primary focus on language. For example, researchers might want to know what kinds of words children learn in their first two years, so would ask parents to bring their child into the child language centre to play some games and do some child development tests.

Project manager for Team Tamariki Professor Stephanie Stokes says the idea for “the Team” has been in the back of her mind for some time.

She recalls working on a study in England that required 200 children and spending “hundreds of hours racing around to get people to sign up”. Then at a subsequent university she worked at in the United Kingdom there was an existing database of families. Researchers had only to contact a database manager when they needed to recruit participants for a project.

“It was unbelievable the difference in terms of getting research done. When I moved to New Zealand in 2010 I thought wouldn’t it be great if we had that here.”

Professor Stokes says the database provides a central point for access and will help avoid families being inundated with repeated calls by various researchers after child subjects.

“As well as advancing knowledge by taking part in research, parents can learn more about their child’s development as we are happy to talk about individual results with families, as well as them being able to see wider study findings as we publish them. That’s the real beauty of it.”

Team Tamariki’s database will be looked after by Professor Stokes and NZILBB Manager Emma Parnell, who will be the ones contacting families from time to time about their willingness to take part in specific research projects. Even once on the register, joining a project remains voluntary, a child will only be asked to be on one project at any time, parents decide how many projects they wish their child to participate in and children’s name will never appear in research results.

And it is not all work and no play. Children are bound to enjoy taking part in the fun activities designed for the research projects and will not leave empty-handed for playing their part in nationally and internationally significant research. When a child finishes a research project the accompanying parent receives a book voucher and the child a Team Tamariki t-shirt as a token of the research team’s thanks.

Team Tamariki is currently inviting families with children under six years of age to join. If you wish to register your child for Team Tamariki please email Emma Parnell at or find out more from the Team Tamariki website:


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